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'American Idol' recap: Solo night finds unlikely survivors

February 18, 2011 |  9:28 am

AI10HollywoodWeek_101209__0384 Am I the only one who can't get that line from "American Idol" contestant Scott McCreery's go-to song, the Josh Turner one that starts "Baby lock them doors and turn the lights down low," out of my head now? 

McCreery, who inexplicably made it through to the final 50 during Hollywood Week's solo night on "Idol" Thursday night, despite having completely botched the words to the Lee Ann Womack song he selected from the list of "Idol"-provided options ("Idol" had some fun by subtitling the gibberish he sang), admitted that even he would have sent himself home after his stumble. But this year's judges are a forgiving bunch and, like merciful gods, allowed all sorts of flubbers to advance.

"The judges this year have been particularly finicky and careful in giving the second opportunity," "Idol" executive producer Nigel Lythgoe told reporters before the show aired Thursday. "Everybody screws up with nerves. Let's give them the second opportunity. Let's try and hear it again."

So much for that frequently replayed clip of Randy Jackson intoning "One chance."

The kinder, gentler, big-picture approach to "Idol" judging was apparent as Randy, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler gave each contestant time to work out the kinks -– sometimes mid-song -– as he or she took a solo turn in the spotlight. And it's definitely evident when you look at some of the contestants who tripped up and yet still made the cut.

McCreery wasn't the only one to startle us by sliding through. Ashley Sullivan, who almost left the competition after buckling under the pressure of the cameras and the expectations on group night but somehow managed to hold it together onstage during that performance, had one of her trademark meltdowns right there in front of the judges, while she tried to sing a song dedicated to her (remarkably supportive) Iraq war veteran boyfriend. She forgot the words, she had to skip around, and she wept and apologized and crumbled. Yet she was ushered through to the next round.

Honestly, I'm all for forgiveness and second chances and everybody-has-a-bad-day kindheartedness, but at this point, I have to say, keeping Ashley dangling along so that the cameras can feast on her emotional instability (she literally begged the camera crews for a moment of privacy the other night) just seems cruel. I'm guessing Ashley and I will feel nothing so much as relief when she's finally sent home.

Which other closely tracked contestants made it through on a night that included some standout performances, from those we know (Casey Abrams, Lauren Alaina) and those we're just getting to know (Jacob Lusk, Ashthon Jones and several others)?

Brett Loewenstern, Jacee Badeaux, Lauren Alaina, Clint Jun Gamboa, Casey Abrams, Robbie Rosen, James Durbin, Naima Adedapo, Carson Higgins, Julie Zorrilla, Jovany Baretto, Rachel Zevita and Scott McCreery.

Who didn't?

Brielle Von Hugel, Corey Levoy, Mark Gutierrez and Chelsee Oaks (whose pal Jacqueline Dunford got sick and dropped out of the competition and who makes us wonder what her ex, Rob Bolin, saw in her when she says, with flip of her red hair, "I'd really like this to be a yes for me because I know that I really deserve it").

But the judges had comforting words for those who were left behind.

"I want you guys to know that each one of you, for me, is very, very special," Lopez said. "This is the type of business where you go on and on, and consistency is the key. I always remember thinking, you know what, I may not get this one, but I'm gonna make 'em a fan. And you made us a fan."

"There were moments when every one of you gave us goosebumps," added Tyler. "That's why you made it this far. You broke our hearts. You made me cry. So don't stop."

Awww. Next week, the survivors tackle the Beatles.

My favorite performance of the night -- Casey Abrams:

-- Amy Reiter

Photo: A contestant during the Hollywood rounds of "American Idol" on Thursday. Credit: Michael Becker / Fox

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